Urban Update 1 February 2024

  • LTNs - Event Report
  • Scotland Consultation on inclusive design in town centres seeks to restrict kerb-free surfaces 
  • Urban greenspaces role in adapting to increased heat - public unaware
  • UK National Population Projections - Analysis of the ONS Projections
  • Modern Methods of Construction not being adopted
  • Indicators for Urban Environmental Sustainability


LTNs – Event Report

The UDG facilitated an event last week to hear the latest research and developments with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, with presentations covering latest developments in implementation and general policy through to current research. 

Historical perspective: LTNs have been in existence for over 50 years – though not named as such, with traffic circulation schemes introduced to protect residential areas, accompanied by tree planting, and the creation of new public spaces.  

Research: Data from a series of studies was presented which identified the following changes following the introduction of LTNs:

  • People Much More active…. after three years, LTN residents did 115 minutes more walking per week and 20 minutes more cycling.
  • Car and van numbers down - number registered in LTNs dropped 6% after two years
  • Safety greatly improved – Road traffic accidents per trip down 70% on roads within the LTNs, for pedestrians, cyclists, and car occupants alike.
  • Street Crime down 10% - larger decreases for violent crime. This effect increased over time, with an estimated 18% reduction after 3 years.  No evidence of crime displacement to adjacent areas.
  • LTNs are being introduced in both deprived and well-off neighbourhoods
  • No evidence of increased fire response times in LTNs nor on boundary roads – although some evidence of increased perception of delays.

Download the presentationas


 LTNs and the Media  - Persistent Breach of the Editor's Code of Practice?
A large section of the UK media selectively report on LTNs, detailing anecdotes that present LTNs in a bad light, offering the opinions of politicians and others who are opposed to LTNs, while omitting to report the research on LTNs conducted by universities such as Imperial College, UCL, or the University of Westminster that has found benefits.  Only the Guardian and the BBC has reported on these studies.  In the UK, the regulator for the press is the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which publishes "The Editors’ Code of Practice"  which sets out the rules that newspapers and magazines regulated by IPSO have agreed to follow. 

Editors' Code of Practice
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

The question must be asked: is an element of the press, while being entitled to campaign, presenting distorted information on LTNs, and indeed, urban and environmental matters generally.



Built Environment

What is a City? …introducing “The Regenerative City”  >>>>
According to this article…. “the current definition of ‘city’ is an urban area, as opposed to a rural area whose dense and numerous population do not carry out agricultural activities.”  The definition is about opposites.  The article then continues by expanding on the idea of “the regenerative city”: an ecosystem where urban and rural areas coexist in harmony, promoting sustainable, healthy lifestyles. 

It would be helpful if these concepts were supported by realistic calculations such as the amount of food that can be obtained from the land available, and at what times of year; so that they can be seen to be practicable. 
Scotland – Government Consultation on “Guidance on inclusive design for town centres and busy streets”    Scottish Government
Full document
The document proposes restrictions on level surfaces in town centres.  

The £20m renovation of Rochdale's stunning Gothic Revival town hall – in pictures - The Guardian
The stunning Victorian municipal pride and opulence shown in the photos, comes at a time when local authorities are facing bankruptcy and being encouraged to sell-off assets, and to close libraries. 

Humans, Health, Society

Climate change, society, and pandemic disease in Roman Italy between 200 BCE and 600 CE -  colder weather linked to epidemic disease  Science Advances

  • This study maps climate change in Roman Italy onto the various crises and pandemics that the Roman republic and empire endured.
  • It is able to present a high-temporal resolution reconstruction of Italian autumn temperature and precipitation on the basis of sediment deposition.
  • This opens up many possibilities of analysis but the paper notes in particular the correlation between “phases of climate change and episodes of acute health crisis”, particularly periods of cold and the various pandemics mentioned in the historical record.  It has been suggested that cold periods led to poorer harvests, food shortages, impaired health, and increased vulnerability to epidemic disease. 
  • The paper finally emphasises that “climate change, pandemic disease, and the fate of human societies have been linked for thousands of years and that such links should be considered in evaluations of future risks to global well-being and stability.”

Assessing public attitudes towards urban green spaces as a heat adaptation strategy: Insights from Germany - Landscape and Urban Planning

  • The paper establishes that there is much scientific research into the heat mitigation effects of green spaces, with one study finding that urban parks reduce peak surface temperature from 2-9°C, but tests how far this is reflected in popular awareness.
  • Surveying 2253 German adults, this paper finds that although most respondents indicated positive attitudes to greenspace, fewer than 20% suggested they used them during heat events. Nevertheless, 70% and 80% respectively were in favour of the creation of more green parks and shaded spaces as a mitigation for warm weather, and for the planting of more trees along streets.
  • Although acknowledging the necessity of urging people remain indoors in air-conditioned areas during extremes, this study suggests there should be encouragement for individuals to use shaded parks earlier or later in the day when conditions are less extreme, specifically for their cooling benefits.


Politics, Philosophy, Economics

UK National population projections: 2021-based interim - ONS

This projection indicates that the UK population will reach 70 million by mid-2026 and grow by 6.6 million from 67.1 to 73.7 million people over the fifteen years from 2021 to 2036.  This incorporates 6.1 million net international migration and 541,000 more births than deaths.  It is a much higher appraisal than before based on a projection of long-term net migration of 315,000 per year after 2028.

The differences are largely a result of re-evaluating the peak migration data point of 504,000 to the year mid-2022 as part of a larger trend, rather than an exception caused by the Ukraine War and the easing of Covid restrictions. This is because it has been followed by a continued longer period of “unprecedented levels of international migration” (net migration of 672,000 in year ending June 2023).

Since around half as many people arrived by humanitarian routes in the year ending June 20223 (83,000) compared  with June 2022 (157,000), and those claiming asylum rose from 75 to 90 thousand, the increase is assessed as driven mostly by a rise in non-EU immigration for work (33% of total non-EU immigration), mainly on health and care work visas, and study (39%). The reason for the increase in "study" is suggested to be “the attraction of the new Graduate visa route … [which] allows international students to apply to work in the UK for at least two years after completing their studies”.

The additional rise in immigration of dependants for work and study primarily from India and Nigeria is found to contribute to this.“Most people arriving to the UK in the Year Ending June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000 82%), followed by EU (129,000 11%) and British (84,000)”:

Source: International Passenger Survey from the Office for National Statistics, Home Office Borders and Immigration data from the Home Office, Registration and Population Interactions Database from the Department for Work and Pensions.


Source: Home Office Borders and Immigration data from the Home Office

Adding to the new estimates is the increased number of those coming for study projected to transition to work visas.  At the same time, the share of individuals aged over 85 years is projected to rise from 1.6 million (2.5% of the total population) to 2.6 million (3.5%).

The ONS nonetheless stresses that this is only a projection based on data for the last 10 years, and that there is a difference between projections and predictions.

Modern Methods of Construction housing - what's gone wrong? – House of Lords Built Environment Committee - Construction Enquirer

  • Uncertain Cost-Effectiveness: while modular MMC showed clear cost benefits in the multi-rise market, it is uncertain whether it is more cost-effective than traditional building methods for typical two and three-storey homes.
  • Barriers to MMC Persist:, including risk aversion from warranty providers and insurance companies, as well as unclear building regulations,


Energy and Climate Change

A scalable method for identifying key indicators to assess urban environmental sustainability: a case study in Norway - City and Environment Interactions
Reviewing current scientific literature, this paper identifies eight main environmental challenges in Norwegian cities, indicators for these, and strategies being deployed:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions/ climate change
    • Indicators include: “GHG emissions measured in tons per capita”
  • Nature and biodiversity loss
    • “The ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate”
    • “The proportion of local breeds at risk of extinction”
  • Air pollution
    • ‘annual mean concentration of PM2.5’
  • Fresh water pollution
    • “ambient water quality - proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality”
  • Marine areas degradation
    • “Proportion of Marine Areas with Good Ambient Water Quality”
  • “Seasonal Temperature Deviations from Long-Term Averages”
  • Waste management
    • “amount of municipal solid waste generated per capita annually”
    • “percentage of city's hazardous waste that is recycled”
  • Noise pollution
    • “noise pollution - share of the population affected by noise > 55 dB(a) at night-time”
  • Energy consumption
    • “total energy consumption per year”
    • “proportion of renewable energy consumed in the city”

The paper stresses that “its methodology is inherently scalable and globally applicable”.